It is now widely acknowledged that Climate Change is the most significant challenge facing humanity. Scilly’s low-lying Islands are especially vulnerable to some of the known effects of climate change, including sea-level rise, increased frequency of storm surges, drought, saline intrusion and changing weather patterns.
Protected landscapes have an important yet proportionate role to play in championing sustainable energy and waste management strategies and highlighting threats to landscapes that are of immense cultural, social and economic importance. It is clear that the potential impacts of climate change on the special qualities of the AONB and the Islands’ communities and economy are not fully understood. Research is required to evaluate the potential impacts of climate change on biodiversity (terrestrial and marine), archaeological and historic resources, tourism, settlement and infrastructure and farming.
Adaption to identified threats may include engineering works in accordance with the Shoreline Management Plan, strategic coastal realignment, and conservation of natural and cultural resources by record. In accordance with Natural England’s position on the impact of climate change on biodiversity the AONB Partnership seeks to conserve high quality habitats and, wherever possible, to enhance their resilience. Accommodation of inevitable change due to natural processes may also be required, though losses may be off-set by habitat creation.
Protected landscapes including the AONB family have a role to play in meeting the UK Government targets to reduce Carbon Dioxide emissions by 60% in 2050. Communities living in AONB’s have limited capacity to effect major reduction in carbon emissions in comparison with the impact of strategic policy in major urban and industrial centres. However, AONB’s influence local communities and visitors by championing sustainability measures. The AONB Sustainable Development Fund (SDF) will continue to support sustainable energy and waste management initiatives in the local community. In its role as a tourist destination the Isles of Scilly is also well-placed to communicate the challenges of climate change to visitors. The vulnerability of Scilly to climate change is an important message that can be communicated to visitors, many of whom return each year to a place which they feel they have a personal stake. In this sense the Isles of Scilly AONB has a significant role to play in explaining the impacts of climate change on the Islands and the social, economic and cultural consequences for residents and visitors alike.
Sustainability and Resilience
Sustainability is about ensuring that actions taken today do not compromise the ability of future generations to meet their needs. The AONB management plan engages with three main forms of sustainability: environmental, economic and social. The interplay of these three is highlighted in the secondary purpose of the designation: ‘Particular regard should be paid to promoting sustainable forms of social and economic development that in themselves conserve and enhance the environment’.
The AONB Management Plan supports economic development that is commensurate with conservation and enhancement of the environment and that leads to sustainable resident communities and social well-being in the AONB.
Resilience is the ability of ecosystems and human populations to adapt to significant change. The impacts of climate change, such as changing weather patterns, sea-level rise and saline intrusion are among the most significant changes to which ecosystems and human populations must respond. Mitigation and adaptation to climate change are important strategic responses that are championed by the AONB partnership. In particular, energy security, food and water security, and sustainable resource availability are essential characteristics of communities that have the resilience to adapt to changing circumstances.
Ecological resilience is at the heart of sustainable landscape management and also contributes to the social and economic resilience of communities. In Scilly the sustainable management of ‘blue carbon sinks’ such as seagrass beds would conserve a special feature of the AONB and would mitigate the effect of carbon emissions. Management of Scilly’s trees is a further example of ecological resilience with trees providing food and fuel, mitigating carbon emission, and retaining an aspect of the Islands’ landscape character for the benefit of residents and visitors.
ICT and the Knowledge-Based economy
Investment in ICT skills and infrastructure will be crucial in enabling Skill’s businesses to be competitive in a national and international market. Home working, video conferencing and on-line marketing are significant opportunities for the Islands’ community in the context of developing ‘knowledge based’ economy.